AUTONOMY, DIVERSITY & DISABILITY: EVERYDAY PRACTICES OF TECHNOLOGY
Artificial Intelligence is now everywhere. Smart phones hear and respond to our voices. They capture images and tell us what they see. They recognise faces in a crowd, and produce meaningful answers to questions.
Yet these powerful effects depend on the ways Artificial Intelligence systems are trained. Data that fails to represent the diversity of human societies can lead to damaging bias in how these systems operate.
Run at Western Sydney University, the ADDEPT project looks to understand how diverse communities use technology in their everyday life. It will examine how and when bias and other technology issues impede, frustrate or disadvantage two distinct groups: people with disability, and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
We're not only interested in technology's pitfalls. Many people from these communities benefit from technological advances. They also find ways to adapt and workaround technological limits, in ways that are often individual and creative, and not always documented.
Greater evidence of these practices can help address bias and advance a more inclusive technological environment:
- Communities can use this evidence to advocate, and to share their own innovations in how technology is applied.
- Researchers and companies can improve on the ways AI and other technologies are designed and developed.
- Service organisations can prepare guides and workarounds to help overcome technology gaps.
- Governments can set policies that demand greater recognition and inclusion of social groups often marginalised and excluded from technology user groups and training data.
Many people, groups and organisations are looking to study and address these issues. The ADDEPT project brings a specific focus to groups in the South West and North East suburbs of Sydney - areas with large migrant populations, increasingly reliant upon AI and other advanced technology in their daily lives.
In October and November 2020, our project team hosted three webinars under the theme of Autonomous Technology and Everyday Inclusion.
Conducted in conjunction with project partners and other key sector stakeholders from technology, creative industries and migration and disability service and advocacy, the webinars covered topics of accessible service delivery, technology and the creative arts.
Recordings of the three webinars are available on YouTube:
New AI-driven consumer technologies—smart speakers, robot personal assistants, self-driving vehicles, translation and speech synthesis applications— are set to become an increasingly common feature of everyday life. For people living with a disability from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities, these technologies have capacity to enable new forms of social inclusion, but also to drive further exclusion due to lack of access, risks to users or deepened stigmatization.
This research project, developed by a research team at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) at Western Sydney University, investigates how current and emerging consumer autonomous technologies (AT) can work to strengthen or impede inclusive participation for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds living with disability in urban Australia.
The project seeks to work in collaborative partnership with multicultural and disability organisations who have identified the challenges and opportunities of autonomous technologies in facilitating access to information, services and resources across disability, multicultural and mainstream platforms.
We work from the understanding that AT holds the potential to positively transform the lives of people at the disability/CaLD intersection, as well as benefit the sector organisations that service and represent them, yet acknowledge its inherent risks, costs and challenges.
Focussing on two urban areas of Sydney (Lower Northshore and Southwest), the project will study the current and potential impact of AT on three key practices of everyday life and avenues for everyday social inclusion – mobility, communication and leisure – for people from CaLD backgrounds living with disability.
AIMSThe project aims to:
- map the interstices of disability and migrant populations and existing services across these two areas
- examine existing use, adaptation and future needs in relation to autonomous technologies for people living with disability from CaLD backgrounds in these areas in relation to practices of mobility, communication and leisure
- document issues of disability stigmatisation, exclusion and risk within differing ethno-cultural communities, and, through detailed research with these communities, document ways autonomous technologies currently address or exacerbate such issues
- co-develop accessible guidelines, resources and strategies on the adoption and adaption of autonomous technologies with disability and migrant populations, service providers and the technology industry, covering technology use, accessibility, adaptability, personal and organizational risk, and affordability
The four-year project will involve a suite of collaborative data collection and knowledge sharing methods, drawing on the project team’s research expertise. Key methods include mapping demographic trends, existing resources and stakeholders in the two urban sites; participant self-documentation of everyday technology use; media production workshops for participant-users; and development of a resource kit to enable individuals, organisations and communities to make informed, reflexive and autonomous decisions about their engagements with AT.
WHO WE ARE
The project brings together a team of ICS senior researchers, with a suite of expertise crossing disability, cultural diversity and technology. Team members each bring broad experience and deep commitment to collaborative, partnerships-based research with long-term real-world impact.
Associate Professor Karen Soldatic is a leading global disability scholar with 20 years of experience as an international (Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia), national and state-based senior policy advisor, researcher and educator.
Associate Professor Liam Magee is a researcher working on social impacts of emerging technology systems, standards and infrastructure. A former software developer and project manager, as an academic Liam continues to collaborate with private and public sectors on innovative research projects.
Associate Professor Shanthi Robertson is a leading researcher and media commentator on contemporary migration, cultural diversity and urban social inclusion. She has worked in partnership with local government on enhancing social inclusion in multicultural communities and has provided expert policy inputs at a federal level.
Dr. Kim Spurway is a former international development practitioner with extensive project management experience with cross-sectoral and diverse teams.
Professor Paul James is an internationally renowned theorist of urbanism and globalization, with a passion for engaged research working on community resilience and urban sustainability.
Gabrielle Patchell is a student at Western Sydney University currently undertaking a Bachelor of Social Work degree. She works collaboratively with her aged care clients and disability clients as an aged care support worker and disability support worker. Gabrielle has previously completed a Diploma in Community Services at TAFE NSW, during which she was commended for her work with children at risk of homelessness in the Windsor and Blue Mountains areas.
Julia Suh is a student at Western Sydney University who is studying a Bachelor of Social Work. She has joined the ADDEPT project to understand the evolving uses of AI-driven services to people living with a disability and people from CaLD backgrounds, particularly within the context of COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes to become a professional social worker to advocate for individuals living with disabilities and their families, friends and communities.
Your Side Australia
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre
Gallery Lane Cove
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
Debra Bourdignon, Dimension Data
Jessica Leefe, NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation
Wendy Rose, Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre
Eva Sifis, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Zaya Toma, Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association
Mark Tonga, Independent Disability Expert
Please contact Project Manager Kim Spurway for further information.